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America: Losing Ground in the Global Education Race

by Jonathan 16. September 2011 16:25

It's no secret that the modern economy demands workers that are increasingly skilled, particularly in advanced, specific skills like mathematics and engineering. Another obvious fact is the poor condition of the American economy. Combine the two, however, and a surprising and troubling situation emerges. Despite high unemployment rates, the aforementioned advanced jobs are available. The problem is filling these positions with capable, appropriately educated workers. America is not producing viable candidates, and companies are forced to hire more capable candidates from other countries. Why does this gap exist? Could it be that our education system is to blame?

A recent article appearing on Education Next compares the performance of U.S. students and other countries in the areas of mathematics and reading proficiency. The results are not encouraging. The comparisons are based upon two assessment organizations that are generally considered as "report cards" of American and global students. These are the National Assessment of Educational Progress (America) and the Program for International Student Assessment (global). For a full breakdown and explanation of the comparisons and results, check out the full article. It's absolutely worth a read.

The broad findings of the comparisons are this: U.S. students are consistently performing well below students from several countries around the globe in both mathematics and reading. The gap is much more pronounced in mathematics, which is without a doubt the skill more applicable to today's economy (and likely the future's).

Perhaps most stunning is the fact that only one U.S. state - Massachusetts - has above a 50 percent proficiency rating in either subject. Many states, in fact, score far below that mark. This means that the vast majority of our students are not proficient in either mathematics or reading. Statistics such as these reinforce the increasingly obvious fact that America, once the undisputed leader in global education, is steadily losing ground to parts of the rest of the world.

The pivotal question is, of course, what will we do about it? I ask you - what can be done? What should be done? Sound off in the comments section below.



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